Is there anything more frustrating than lying in bed unable to fall asleep? You look at the clock and start calculating how many hours of sleep you’ll get if you fall asleep right now - how many hours of sleep you’ll get if you fall asleep in thirty minutes. You lie in bed, frustrated until you finally drift off to sleep as the morning sun starts streaming through the window. For some of us, there are very real sleep disorders that can interfere with sleep. For many of us, there are specific changes we can make to increase our ability to fall asleep quickly and to get a good night’s rest. Following are seven ways that you can start healthier sleep habits - starting today!
- Avoid caffeine for four to six hours before going to bed. You may not realize that coffee is affecting your sleep but coffee and other caffeine stays in our system for four to six hours.
- Stop drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime and limit the number of alcoholic drinks to one to two a day. Alcohol does help you fall asleep. However, during the night alcohol decreases the quality of sleep through increasing wakefulness and interfering with REM sleep.
- Bedroom activities should be limited to sleep. Your bed should be an environment that cues your brain and body to fall asleep. This means there should be no TV, iPad, phone, computers, work/homework or eating in bed. You don’t want to train your brain to associate your bed with anything other than rest.
- As much as is within your control, avoid stressful conversations or activities before sleep. The stress hormone cortisol promotes awakeness and makes it harder to fall asleep. Avoid sensitive topics or stressful topics before sleep.
- Give yourself twenty minutes to fall asleep. If you are not able to fall asleep after twenty minutes, get out of bed and do something in a different room such as reading a book or magazine.
- Skip the clock-watching. As we talked about in our opening paragraph, watching the clock does nothing but create frustration! Move the clock where you can not see it and put your phone somewhere where you can’t reach.
- Keep away from electronics. Did you know that electronics emit blue light wavelengths that actually interfere with our ability to fall asleep? Harvard Medical school shares that blue light wavelengths “boost attention, reaction times and mood” which can be incredibly disruptive in our ability to fall asleep. Blue light also suppresses the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep.